Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Training Tuesday: Moving to Day Zero

In my last update, I commented that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from the Relaxation Protocol, and as a result, wasn’t sure what to do next. Since I knew that we had an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist, I decided to hold off on the protocol until I could consult with her. We decided that I should start over with the protocol.

So I did. But I’m still not happy with how Maisy’s doing. Here’s a video of Maisy and I doing Day 1:



Although Maisy did much better this time than when we started the protocol at the end of August, she still isn’t really relaxing. In the video, you’ll notice that while she remains in a down, she’s in more of an alert down, crouched and ready for action. She maintains eye contact for the majority of the time. Her chin never touches the floor.

That said, there are a few moments where she relaxes: she shifts on to her hip at 2:45, and towards the end, her gaze isn’t as focused on me. Unfortunately, I missed those rewardable moments because I was so focused on what I was supposed to be doing (I guess I’m not so good at multi-tasking). I suppose this is the beauty of video, though; it’s really helped me see where I could do a better job with the protocol.

As a result, I’ve decided that we’re going to move back to “Day Zero.” Every night, I’ll just sit next to Maisy on her mat for 3 to 5 minutes, and reward for increased relaxation. I won’t miss things like rolling on her hip or reduced eye contact because all I will be doing is sitting there. I’ll use Dr. Duxbury’s suggestions to slow down and feed in position.

Since we do mat work like this in my reactive dog class, this should be familiar to Maisy, and I expect that she’ll assume the “flat dog” position pretty quickly. Once she can remain flat on her side for the entire time, I should be able to stretch out the amount of time between treats fairly easily.

The next step is for me to move from a sitting position to a standing one. This will completely change the picture for her- I’ve always sat next to her while doing mat work, and I’m usually on the floor, at that. In addition to increasing my rate of reinforcement, I’ll make the transition to standing a fairly gradual one: first, I’ll sit in a chair, then I’ll kneel in front of her, and then I’ll try standing.

Maisy’s medication should be kicking in by then, too, so I think that I’ll begin to see some true relaxation instead of “operant relaxation.” Speaking of medication... Maisy has taken six half-doses of her paroxetine so far. Although it is probably too early for the medication to be doing much, she does seem slightly calmer around the house. Yesterday she actually took a nap! It's possible this is a side-effect (lethargy is a common side-effect of paroxetine), but it's encouraging either way.

7 comments:

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Would it also be easier if you started her in the crate where you have done most of the work already? And I know you're trying not to make eye contact, but perhaps Maisy is also confused by your weird body language? Maybe if you didn't face her and were more at an angle (use a mirror), and not worry so much about coming back directly to front position....

Can't offer you any other advice as I know my dogs would be exactly the same as Maisy. If there are treats to be had they go into ready mode. Maybe if I say "all done" and completely ignore them they give up and relax, but as soon as they get a reward they are ready again, especially if I am standing there like that looking like I am expecting something.

katie, Maizey and Magnus said...

Just put long black ears on your maisy and you have our video's from RP.LOL I still think it's good, but I am not sure how to translate to her, "You are not working, you are just chilling out." For her I don't know that she is anxious, just in working mode, so maybe she will learn in time.

I agree with laura about position, I found that even standing at an angle to her seems to give her a slightly different message. I also love the idea of sitting since I think her drive for eye contact keeps her head oriented up and that is hardly a conducive position to relax. Perhaps sitting would let her head stay in a more neutral position? Although I am not sure how to jog in place while sitting.;)

Also I noticed your hands are in front, I started holding my hands behind me and last night I wore a big hoody and put my hands in the pocket. I think my hands give her one more thing to pay attention to as we use a lot of hand cues. Don't know if that is helping yet, but we'll see.

When you say, "Unfortunately, I missed those rewardable moments . . ." do you mean you will reward the relaxed behavior, like not looking at you, that happens in between the RP rewards? I have no idea how I missed that in the program, but it makes perfect sense it that's it. Of course there is that pesky multi-tasking.:) Thanks for another great post!

Crystal said...

Wow, you guys had some great feedback! Let's see if I can cover it all...

First, I did the RP on the mat for this session for two reasons: 1. Dr. Duxbury wants me to do it on both the mat AND the crate (and it looks like now I'm swinging too much towards the mat side of things, so I'll need to work on alternating the two), and 2. It's much harder to get video when she's in the crate than when she's on her mat (my crate's not see through on the sides).

I was trying to avoid eye contact, and most of the time, I was looking past her tail, watching her largely out of my peripheral vision. Of course, this meant that (in addition to my apparent inability to multi-task), I couldn't see when she wasn't looking at me as easily as if I had been making eye contact.

As for the way I was standing... you guys are VERY perceptive! It does look a lot like my body language for fronts. I didn't think it mattered much, though- I figured having the mat (or crate) was enough to change the picture/act as a cue that we're doing something different. Perhaps I was wrong on that, though... I'll have to experiment with standing at an angle or holding my hands in different ways.

Thanks so much for the feedback. It's totally encouraging me to post more video. :)

Sara (and Layla) said...

I agree with the others about your body language. I don't know what normal "training mode" looks like for you, but if I had to guess I would say that you're mirroring your typical training body language. Soften up and put yourself in a "we're not training right now" context. Slow your movements down, especially the steps. Try slouching, sitting or kneeling, holding your phone up to your ear, talking to your husband over your shoulder, listening to an ipod, or whatever takes you out of training mode.

I had to do this when working with an incredibly shy/scared Wheaten recently. She would shut down if I put any pressure on her at all - pressure in this case being any training/expectations. I did the whole first task set over and over again with me sitting in front of her, not making eye contact, pretending to read from the RP sheets in my lap. For the step exercises, I scooted around on my butt. It probably looked incredibly odd, but it helped her begin to relax and by the end of our training time together (multiple half-hour sessions) she was starting to come out of her shell and be able to deal with small amounts of pressure, enough that I was able to start working with her on mat work, targeting, and LAT.

I found it was helpful not to treat Layla every time in the beginning. We spent a week on Day One with me not using any treats at all, just smiling to her at the completion of each task. Treats put her too far into working mode. I gave one small treat at the end of a task set. After that, I gradually started phasing in more treats, first for any signs of relaxation and later on after each task. Of course, once we started to make progress, I stopped, because I SUCK. I have no idea why I was so incredibly stupid. Bad trainer!

Crystal said...

Sara, if that's the case- that *I* look like we're in training mode- it would certainly explain why Maisy is treating the mat like an object to train with instead of an object to relax on. At least it's been good proofing for a stay?

I'll have to look at the tasks and see how I can modify the RP so that I don't look like I'm expecting anything. I'm thinking a lot of it could be done with her mat on the floor next to the couch while I read... initially it might just be moving my feet, but I could progress to standing and stretching, going to the kitchen to get a drink, etc.

Robin Sallie said...

I think sitting in a chair for day zero would be best because sitting on the floor is a large part of your "training mode" body language with the Muppet.

Can you do it while watching NewsRadio?

Crystal said...

After a some experimentation for the last few days, Robin, I agree. Sitting in a chair is an entirely new picture for her, which prevents an association between actively resting (ie, working). On the rare occasions in which she is actually resting around the house, I'm usually sitting on the couch, reading. And, it will be the best picture for her going forward, because it most closely approximates what I would be doing at a trial. (Assuming we ever trial again.)

The only drawback is that it's a bit harder to get treats to her in position when she's on the floor and I'm not, but as both Sara and Dr. Duxbury noted, I don't need to use THAT MANY treats anyway.